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Round Table Review
Tracklist: Animae Partus (1:48), Deus Nova (3:18), Imago (Hominus Partus) (5:11), Pluvius Aestivus (5:00), Lilium Cruentus (Deus Nova) (5:28), Nautica (Drifting) (4:58), Dea Pecuniae (10:09), Vocari Dei (3:50), Diffidentia (Breaching The Core) (7:36), Nihil Morari (6:21), Latericius Valete (2:27), Omni (2:37), Iter Impius (6:21), Martius/Nauticus II (6:41), Animae Partus II (4:08)
01. Animae Partus ("I am")
I. Animae Partus
All in the Image of
02. Deus Nova (Fabricatio)
03. Imago (Homines Partus)
04. Pluvius Aestivus
Of Summer Rain (Homines Fabula Initium)
Of Gods & Slaves
05. Lilium Cruentus (Deus Nova)
On the Loss of Innocence
06. Nauticus (drifting)
07. Dea Pecuniae
I. Mr. Money
III: I Raise My Glass
Nemo Idoneus Aderat Qui Responderet
08. Vocari Dei
Sordes Aetas - Mess Age
09. Diffidentia (Breaching the Core)
Exitus - Drifting II
10. Nihil Morari
(Homines Fabula Finis)
Of the Ones With no Hope
11. Latericius Valete
13. Iter Impius
Martigena, son of Mars
14. Martius/Nauticus II
V. Deus Nova Mobile
...and a God is Born
15. Animae Partus II
Normally promo copies come in a carton sleeve, yet the promo version of BE came in a standard jewel case, which contained a 20-page booklet with extensive liner notes by Daniel Gildenlöw about the concept of the album, some 10 pages of seemingly unrelated facts and figures and even a 'recommended literature list'!
Looking into the booklet - without listening to the CD - my first reaction was "Crikey, this is not an album, but a thesis!" Little did I know at the time that I was right.
Now, I'm not much of a Pain of Salvation fan. I bought The Perfect Element pt 1 on this site's recommendation and never really got into it. Seeing the band supporting Dream Theater a few years back didn't really change my mind about them, in fact, it made me skip their next album Remedy Lane altogether, as they seemed a far too much overrated band. I admit now, that I was wrong. The live album 12:5 already convinced me of Gildenlöw's vocal talents and songwriting capabilities and now with BE they've gained another fan.
In the liner notes Gildenlöw explains how the concept of the album deals with seeing patterns in seemingly entirely unrelated events throughout the history of mankind. By translating this concept into music this results in an incredibly inconsistent album with lots of seemingly unrelated musical styles, which only makes sense after repeated listening. And that latter bit is quite easy, as the music has an unexplainable attraction which has caused this CD to beat all others out of my CD-player for more than a month now. And I'm still only starting to grasp the concept and make sense of some of it.
The booklet contains lots of these 'unrelated' events, as well as a three-page recommended reading list of books dealing with the subjects touched in the concept. These books range from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, to Plato and Nietsche, to Asimov and Milne, from scientific research to fiction and from history to fairy tales - indeed, all seemingly unrelated topics in which only madmen or musicians would seek patterns.
Of the hypotheses and subjects mentioned in the liner notes I particularly like the "Life On Earth In One Year Parable" which shows the history of earth against the time span of one calendar year. This shows the slow progress of how life formed on earth, with dinosaurs not appearing until mid December, the first humans only appeared in the last hour before midnight and the Industrial Revolution in the last second! Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
As a result of this daring concept, the album only contains a handful of real songs, which are interconnected by instrumental passages and lots samples and effects. The nine-piece "Orchestra of Eternity" that plays on virtually every song on the album gives the music a strong symphonic and at times almost classical feel, quite a shocker for those expecting this to be a heavy metal fest. And this is probably where the boldest move of the concept comes in. Pain Of Salvation have gathered quite a large fanbase with their albums The Perfect Element pt 1 and Remedy Lane, a fanbase that mainly resides in the metal side of the musical demograph. They then come with an album that is so un-metal and so unlike their previous work, with such a weird concept that it will almost certainly deter lots of their fans.
The album deals with a wide variety of subjects, all dealing with existence and the realisation of existing or 'being'. It starts with a spoken section dealing with the self-realisation of God and his/her existence. Emphasising an androgynous God this text is read out by two female and a male voice mixed together, which unfortunately sounds a lot like a commercial for Orange telecom, as it is exactly the same technique used for those commercials.
The full band kicks in with Deus Nova which is a heavy rock piece with keyboard noodling that echoes Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, and the only vocals are that of a newsreporter reading out the exponential growth of the human world population since the last ice age.
The first 'song' on the album Imago (Hominus Partus) is probably not what Pain Of Salvation fans want to hear: a folk rock track, much in the vein of fellow Swedes Ritual. It is a nice track with a great accessible melody, but I can imagine people expecting to hear roaring guitars to go what the f...?
That feeling continues with Pluvius Aestivus which is a classical piano piece, backed with a delicate string arrangement, which sounds a lot like a movie soundtrack or the mellower works of Vangelis - in fact, the string melody sounds eerily similar to Vangelis' Theme from Blade Runner.
Five songs and 15 minutes into the album comes the first real rocker, Lilium Cruentus, though this is still a song that relies heavily on the orchestra (with lots of flutes and clarinets) and lots of effects. Special mention must go to bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw, whose delightful fretless bass really stands out.
The album shifts down a gear or three for Nauticus (Drifting), which is a typical track inmates used to sing during labour in a 1930s Louisiana prison (see the opening scene of the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? for reference). I love it, and it is a great mellow interlude. At the end of the song comes a little sketch which seems to be taken from a movie, with a guy trying to impress his date with slightly the wrong methods. Fun if you hear it for the first time, but it wears out after a while.
Then follows the longest track on the album, Dea Pecuniae, which is a great song, celebrating the male ego with very cynical lyrics. This song can best be described as a cross-pollination between Queensrÿche (Mindcrime era) and Supertramp (complete with oohs, aahs and sha-la-las). Being the longest track, it may actually be a bit overlong, as the last couple of minutes are mainly repetition of the same melody. Also, this is the point where Gildenlöw's production could have benefited from a second opinion, as there is simply too much being crammed through the speakers at the same time. There are at least three lead vocal melodies, four or five backing vocal melodies, choir, string section, synthesisers, rhythm guitar, two soloing guitars, bass and drums, all played at a loud level, resulting in a cacophony. A 5.1 surround mix would be a good solution here, as for a stereo mix there is simply too much being crammed through the two speakers.
The album then shifts down again for Vocari Dei, a beautiful piece that answers the question "If God had an answering machine, what would be on it?" (hence the subtitle Mess Age - geddit?). It is an utterly beautiful instrumental over which answering machine messages are played. The track echoes Roger Waters' Amused To Death in every possible way, but I think Waters himself could not have done it better.
The messages range from the usual thank you's and hallelujahs to questioning Him how an entity that is supposed to be good can create something so evil and destructive as the human race. Some of these messages really put you back with both feet firmly on the ground and it can bring tears in your eyes by the time you reach the last message, a shaky voice saying: "Yeah, listen God.. uhm... I just want to say a really big thank you on behalf of everybody... thanks for getting the whole thing started and for getting it off the ground... but I think that this time we have really screwed things up, and I am so, so sorry"
Diffidentia (Beaching The Core) will have the dozed off metal fans jump up and cheer, as this is the Pain Of Salvation they have grown to love over the years. For me personally, this is the Pain Of Salvation which caused me to shelve The Perfect Element after only a few spins, never to listen to it again. It is a song with loads of heavy guitar, with simple, penetrating high-pitched piano chords and screaming vocals. What I do like are the two reprises of Drifting which are included in the song, which are a welcome break from the guitarfest.
Nihil Morari stays in the prog metal territory, but a lot more my cup of tea this time. It starts with very mysterious acoustic guitar melody (or is that a bass guitar) and Gildenlöw musing about his existence by nicking some lines from The Who's Tommy. Then the song kicks in with heavy guitars accompanied by menacing violins - vewwy nice indeed. Also incorporated in the song is a reprise of Deus Nova, with the human population growing even more explosive after 2010, as well as lots of news readings from the future, reporting of terrible, apocalyptic disasters in the future.
Latericius Valete is another instrumental with classical overtones. The voice from Deus Nova comes back one more time with the message that human existence will be all but wiped out by 2060 AD.
More newsreadings in Omni of which the music is entirely played by church organ. Melody wise this sounds quite like Pink Floyd's Outside The Wall and when Gildenlöw starts singing it strongly reminds me of some of the work of Saga
Iter Impius is the spark of hope after human devastation, with a new God rising from the ruins of mankind. It is one of my favourite songs from the album. It starts out as a ballad with piano, flute and violin, and gradually builds towards a heavier rock track with a great
guitar solo and a terrific finale showcasing the incredible range of Gildenlöw's vocals.
The album comes to a great finale with Martius/Nauticus II, which contains a largely instrumental reprise of the folky Imago (Hominus Partus) and ends with great Latin percussion - this actually finishes a tad to early for me, as the album is screaming for one final reprise at this point, but instead we return to the opening track again with God reborn. Unfortunately the band fell for that age-old trick of following the final track with four minutes silence and adding a silly joke at the end. To me it ruins the grande finale, especially since it has been done so many times before.
It is difficult to compare this album with anything else I know. As far as musical references go I would say Queensrÿche - Operation Mindcrime, Saga - Generation 13, Roger Waters - Amused To Death, Dream Theater - Metropolis pt 2 and the first album by Ritual. Conceptwise, there is nothing that even remotely comes close to this.
The daft final ending aside, this album is one hell of a rollercoaster ride of an experience. However, I guess that for many PoS fans it will be a hard nut to crack. Not enough rock, and way too much effects and experimental stuff. For me though, this is how I like my prog: varied, deep and never boring even after countless listenings.
So if you expect a metal fest, you will be disappointed. However, if you are ready for something completely different, if you don't mind getting more prog than metal, and if you are open to music that originates from an academic hypothesis, then this is exactly your album.
Then again, if you just like listening to good music, you could also give it a try!
From the first announcement on the internet it was clear that the new album of Pain Of Salvation, BE, would be an ambitious project. From all over the world people were invited to participate in this album by recording a message to their god on a Pain Of Salvation answering machine. Because of this early announcement and the superb surprise in between release, 12:5, my expectation rose to a very high level.
It would be almost impossible for PoS to live up to my high expectations. I am still not sure if they did, I do like this album while it is certainly not as I suspected but that might by good thing. On the first spins I did not realize that I would come to like it. I was very surprised, and disappointed by the direction PoS had chosen for this new album. I was hoping they would mix a lot of The Perfect Element with a bit of Remedy Lane. They did indeed use a bit of Remedy Lane but added something completely new. I realize now that mixing two previous albums is not the way to go forward for a band. With Be Pain Of Salvation have shown that they are not stuck to a certain sound or genre.
I am in no way saying that this is not a Pain Of Salvation album, it inhabits a number of recognisable PoS feature but added to that is a whole new sound. There are some tracks on this album that even a die-hard fan would find hard to recognise as being PoS tracks but hopefully this will also mean that people find new appreciation for this sympathetic band. It will unfortunately also mean, I think, that old fans turn away from this band.
Animae Partus is a 2 minutes monologue, without any music, of a God' (?), speaking in both male and female voice. Deus Nova is the first proper song although it does not have lyrics, it states the growth of the world population. Imago (Hominus Partus) sounds a lot like a traditional Irish dance song (like the ones you hear in movies about medieval times). Pluvius Aestivus could have been a James Horner score for a underwater movie, it is really nice but the odd one out of this album.
Lilium Cruentus (Deus Nova) is the first track very recognisable PoS track Nautica (Drifting) is a negro-spiritual, plain and simple. Dea Pecuniae starts of with a cheesy conversation, but after that the music is quite good, I find it hard to describe the sound but it could have been a song in a Seventies musical like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Vocari Dei is the first track in which the answering machine clips are used, some of them are quite impressive. In Diffidentia (Breaching The Core) PoS is finally PoS, this track comes closest to earlier albums Entropia and The Perfect Element. It is also the gateway to the second part of the album: the part in which the album starts sounding like I had hoped the new PoS album would be. Finally the metal sound that I like so much is re-introduced.
Nihil Morari is not as heavy as the previous track but has a typical threatening atmosphere. Latericius Valete has a number of classical influences, the piano, the violins all give it this sound. The church organ of Omni gives makes this a solemn track. The first piece of Iter Impius has some loops of Lilium Cruentus and seems to be very influenced by the works of 12:5 halfway a screaming guitar kicks in. The marching drums of Martius/Nauticus II and a little further along the track guitars and flute add a very Arabic feel to this track, the bass guitar towards the end is splendid. Animae Partus II is not really a track and it ends it minutes of silence
So what then should be the final verdict? The voice only tracks are a bit redundant and one or two other tracks could have been left out, but what remains if you discard those, is a really surprising and very enjoyable album. Right now I am still in the process of discovering this album and writing this review made me realise that I really like it (in fact I rewrote parts of it when I thought I was finished). I have thrown off my first feelings of disappointment and think my CD player has found a friend for the next couple of weeks. With each spin it crawls towards my album of the year, although it is not there yet.
Already this album has stirred up some controversy and I think it is one of those hate it or love it things. This album will probably divide Pain Of Salvation fans. I know on which side I stand, please find out on which side you stand, and hopefully this review will help you in deciding.
In 2002, Pain of Salvation created what has to be one of the best progressive metal albums of the new millennium thus far in Remedy Lane. Brimming with passion, ideas and not least excellent songs, it frankly put many of the Dream Theater clones who populate the scene to shame. Of course, the question was how the band, and in particular their leader, Daniel Gildenlöw, were going to follow it. Not in conventional fashion was obviously the answer. First we had the acoustic ‘stop-gap’ of 12:5; now comes this sprawling opus, of which the least you can say is a very ambitious and imaginative piece of work.
BE is a concept album which, in its simplest terms, Gildenlöw describes as ‘a kind of modern fairy tale about the genesis of life. It deals with mankind, with God and our relationship with faith and science’. Weighty topics indeed, and unsurprisingly much of the source material came from Gildenlöw’s various studies in subjects such as Ethics and Gender in Education. Its clear just from the CD booklet that this is not a concept dashed off in an afternoon down the pub; in addition to various ‘points of departure’ for the concept, there is a list of theories and concepts studied and incorporated into the album, along with a lengthy bibliography. Finally, to lead you in no doubt as to the academic and intellectual pretensions of the album, the song titles are predominantly in Latin.
The problem is that with such a weighty and intellectual topic as this, its always going to carry the danger of sounding less like a rock record designed for enjoyment, and more like a thesis set to music – and I have to say that, for me, this is frequently the case, particularly on the first half of the album. Right from the off, you are hit with a barrage of samples and spoken word pieces, sometimes taking precedence over the music, at other times appearing when you least expect them and cutting the flow of actual songs. The lyrics are something of a mish-mash too; sometimes quite interesting and profound, but at others falling into the trap of being clichéd, pretentious and rather trite – whether this is deliberate or not, I can’t tell. Also, some segments seem to have little relevance, even when gathered under such a broad concept of this – the spoken word piece at the beginning of Dea Pecunaiae where a male driver tries to get his female passenger to perform sexual favours for him springs immediately to mind.
But what of the music? Well, one things for sure – Gildenlöw can’t be accused of staying within the generally fairly narrow confines of the prog metal genre. In fact, much of the album (again, primarily in the first half) has little to do with metal at all. We have some Celtic-flavoured folk (Imago), a deep-south flavoured paen to the Lord above that sounds like it should feature The Blind Boys Of Alabama (Nauticus (Drifting)), a classical piano-led instrumental piece that could certainly be labelled ‘new age’ (Pluvius Aestivus) and a gospel drenched soul tune (Dea Pecunae). I should state that these are by no means bad; the latter track in particular, whilst overlong, has good melodies and is very passionately performed. The problem is mainly the fact that nothing is allowed to flow properly, with songs either being broken up unnecessarily by the aforementioned spoken interludes or starting promisingly before heading down dead-ends to nowhere in particular (Lilium Cruentus (Deus Nova) being a case in point). Gildenlöw does make the point that, despite the wide variety of genres attempted here, everything has that distinctive PoS sound; he’s right to a point, but the fact remains that often there’s just too much going on here and too many stylistic shifts for the listener to get a grip on what’s going on.
In BE’s favour, I will say that I found the second half of the album to be both musically stronger and to have a significantly more unified feel than the first, with particular standouts being Diffidentia (Breaching The Core) - a ‘classic’ PoS composition featuring excellent riffs, Gildenlöw’s vocals at his most expressive, a powerful chorus and a great sense of dynamics – and Iter Impius, a passionate, almost balladic song which builds well to a powerful climax. The latter tracks also make the best use of the nine-piece ‘Orchestra Of Eternity’, with the use of strings and wind instruments being well thought out and implemented to really add to the texture of the music.
Overall, I have to say that whilst this is an interesting, imaginative and sometimes thought-provoking listen, it is not consistently what I would call an enjoyable one. Too often I found listening to this something of a chore rather than a pleasure, and that shouldn’t be the case with music, no matter how ‘challenging’ it is. On the flip side, it is good that Gildenlöw is not content to simply tread out pale facsimiles of his previous work, and I would say that I wouldn’t necessarily class this as a disappointment – just an experimental release that hasn’t really fully clicked with me yet. BE also has the feel of being a ‘grower’, although whether listeners will give it the amount of time needed to fully absorb what’s going on is a moot point. As it is, I’ll certainly return to this in the future, but somehow don’t think it will be featuring in my ‘best of the year’ list.
Boy, am I feeling like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with trying to convey my feelings for this album without embarking on a degree-style thesis. Their record label claims the band is ‘wandering through the greatest depths of ProgMetal’ with this, their much-anticipated follow-up to the ground-breakingly fantastic Remedy Lane. That is somewhat of an understatement.
BE is very much a concept album based around the thoughts, research and conclusions of the band’s mainstay, Daniel Gildenlöw, over the great mystery of human existence. Why are we here, who are we, and where are we going? If ever you wondered what it would be like, if a studious professor of philosophy committed a thesis to music, then this is it.
PoS has never been the easiest band to get into; the discordant harmonies; conflicting instrumental sections; Daniel’s ever-changing vocal style and the huge range of dynamics, from full-on metal to heart-wrenching emotion, is just too much to swallow for some. For those, like me, who have a big enough mouth to digest it all, then they provide the most absorbing listen that the genre has ever provided, however, even I am finding this almost impossible to fathom. The aim I’m sure was to create a soundtrack that stretched across the confusion of ideas that Gildenlöw has gathered around his chosen topic. There are certainly plenty of the traditional trademarks of PoS in some of the songs and there are a few moments of ‘simple’ brilliance. But on top of the usual complexities, we have a nine-piece ensemble (the Orchestra of Eternity if you please) plus some gospel, renaissance music, folk and classical. Once or twice there’s a heavy dose of Prince circa thrown in for good measure.
Where the disparate parts are brought together with care and musical invention, the results can be stunning. I particularly like the combination of renaissance, Hungarian folk (a bit of recycling from Remedy Lane), acoustic guitar and flute on the third track (the first proper song). Also worth selecting for repeat play are the moving Iter Impius and Martius/Nauticus II, however you have to plough through so much waffle to get to the good bits. The first track isn't musical at all - just a boy and a young man reciting some quotes. The second track gives us some repetitive background music, behind another voice reciting statistics that convey the world's expanding population every 500 years. Starting thousands of years before Christ and going on well into the future - it takes a long time and is rather like listening to a student learning their 500 times table. The track ends with the boy and man from track one having a repeat recital. Track four is basically a piano solo, track five is just very ordinary, track six has a bizarre reference to oral sex in a car and track eight consists of answer machine messages to God. I'm obviously missing something here, but this makes absolutely no sense; no substantial intellectual or moral point whatsoever. This is also by far the softest PoS album to date. There is a smattering of crunchy guitars on three or four tracks but even then, the riffs are bordering on the basic - another major negative for me.
Overall, I guess whether this is a great album or not, really is down to very individual personal tastes. I know many people who have heard the promos for this release who have previously considered PoS too heavy. They think this is one of the best releases of the year. They do generally tend to be into more progressive music if that helps. However the majority of people I know - often the longstanding PoS fans - have found this a huge let down. This is the camp that I currently sit in. I find it all too messy and disjointed, with far too few songs, far too many spoken parts and samples and far too much pretentiousness. I’ll still listen to it occasionally and somewhere along the line it may all make sense.
I’ll sum up, by stealing some words from Star Trek. With BE PoS have certainly been bold enough to go where no other progressive band has gone before. As time allows opinions to firm on this most complex of albums, whether any band will ever be bold enough to go there again remains to be seen.
Finally, after two years and an acoustic live album, the Swedish quintet that is Pain of Salvation unleash another concept album. Previous efforts - including the outstanding Remedy Lane - have definitely lain on the "metal" end of the spectrum. This time around, however, with BE, it appears things are going to be different.
Singer/guitarist/songwriter Daniel Gildenlöw decided that this album required some spoken word introduction, and so we start with a "Message from God" (!). Then follows a short piece describing the population growth of the human race - listen carefully, there'll be tests later - then more commentary from God, indicating that the human race are to "teach me something"... and so, theoretically, begins the great experiment.
So, the music starts up for real with Imago, which brings the 9-piece classical ensemble "Orchestra of Eternity" into full focus, together with acoustic guitar and double bass in a style recognisable from earlier albums. This bears the Pain of Salvation unique sound, in a folky setting. Interesting, although by now (after 10 minutes) we're about ready for the album to kick in, please.
Therein lies the first problem - it doesn't kick in, not for a while yet. The 5-minute keyboard instrumental Pluvius Aestivus is very nice indeed, but keeps the tone low-key. Lilium Cruentus builds it up a bit more, only to go right back down with a gospel-esque prayer Nauticus straight out of the Deep South, perhaps the low point of the album. This ends with a "humorous" spoken interlude that is supposed to illustrate a point, but instead winds up breaking the tension. That's okay, because the next 10 minutes are a showpiece on the same theme - fine for David Lee Roth, but (however tongue in cheek) irrelevant for Pain of Salvation.
Be really re-starts with Vocari Dei, some 35 minutes into the album. This bit is reminiscent of Evergrey's recent superb The Inner Circle, with its "Messages to God". It's followed by the crushing chords of Diffidentia, finally the explosion we've all been waiting for. Nihil Morari reprises the population growth of Deus Nova with some future projections, and drags a little. Two more short pieces - featuring some choral work of not much interest - lead to Iter Impicus, featuring a stunning guitar solo and this album's most memorable melodies by far. Building nicely from piano and orchestra to a wonderful climax, it's a shame BE couldn't have all been of this quality.
Pain of Salvation evidently still have it; it shows in flashes of brilliance throughout the album, and certainly the musicianship throughout cannot be faulted. Be is certainly an accomplishment. There's just too little here for the fans; too little of the atmosphere they've so effortlessly created before. Coming on the heels of the superb Perfect Element part I and Remedy Lane, BE just fails to satisfy. Let's hope Mr Gildenlöw can follow this with the storm we - and they - really deserve.